Yale Nursing Co-Hosts International Climate Conference

November 8, 2021

Yale School of Nursing (YSN) partnered with the Global Alliance of Universities on Climate (GAUC) to cohost the “Graduate Forum & Global Youth Summit on Net-Zero Future,” on October 28. 

Yale University President Peter Salovey welcomed attendees from across the globe. 

“At Yale we believe strongly in the power of research and education,” he said. “Our efforts are rooted in the work taking place across the whole university as part of our Planetary Solutions Project. This university-wide initiative calls on Yale to provide leadership in tackling environmental challenges that threaten life on Earth and to use the campus as a laboratory for implementing the best technologies, policies, and ideas.” 

In her remarks for a session on climate, food, and health, Dean Ann Kurth ’90 MSN, PhD, CNM, MPH, FAAN highlighted the urgency of addressing climate change now. 

“We know the climate crisis is here. We know the impact on human health is already present and will accelerate. And we also know that there are things that we can and must do,” she said.  “Your generation has a great burden, as do all of us on the planet at the moment. Both for contributing to actionable solutions and also for continuing to activate and advocate.” 

“The health sector has a crucial role to play, both in mitigating its greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impact, and also to be adapted and prepared to address the needs of population displacement, extreme weather events, heat waves, drought, flooding, and all the elements that we know are part of this climate crisis,” she said.

Dean Kurth encouraged the audience to consider the research of Harvard social scientist Dr. Erica Chenoweth, who has studied civil resistance campaigns over the past century. Dr. Chenoweth concluded that no government was able to withstand a challenge of 3.5% of its population resisting without either accommodating or disintegrating. 

“Literally a small proportion of people can make a huge difference in where large structures go, and we know that we need large structural approaches,” Dean Kurth said. 

Associate Dean for Global Affairs & Planetary Health Dr. LaRon Nelson, PhD, RN, FNP, FNAP, FAAN moderated a discussion that included a talk from Dr. Kai Chen, PhD, of the Yale School of Public Health (YSPH). Dr. Chen is an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at YSPH and the Director of Research at the Yale Center on Climate Change and Health. His talk was titled “Climate Change and Health: Connecting the Dots.”

Dr. Nelson praised the faculty and student speakers throughout the event and reflected on the proposed action steps. 

“I think today was an opportunity for us to really think about not just the impact of climate change on health but also on systems that we rely on to nourish and sustain our health, like food. There are multiple potential impacts of climate change but also what we heard today were multiple ways that we can contribute to not just mitigation but also adaption through different interventions.”

This year’s forum was cohosted by Yale, Tsinghua University (China), Imperial College (United Kingdom), Cambridge University (United Kingdom), and Columbia University. 

A recording of the event is available online at the YSN YouTube channel.